Criticizing ATL and its legal educ reporters for hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, and other assorted mischief is a habit for those of us on the front lines of this business, and I have this habit as much as anyone.
But, when one of these folks calls it right, credit is due, and listening is the right reaction.
Elie Mystal has a post today on Above the Law that gets to the heart of a real problem, and one which potentially will only grow in significance and impact. Law grads, as he notes, feel increasingly disaffected from their law schools once they graduate, this disaffection being tied not principally (my characterization, not his) to the quality of the education provided, but to the employment outcomes and correlative debt burden suffered by students out in the marketplace with challenges and stress. In the law schools, we call this group (grads of the last seven years or so) “the lost generation.”
The basic problem which undergirds Elie’s righteous and thoughtful post is that law schools too often regard their undemployed or underemployed graduates, more than, say, a year out, as someone else’s problem. Even those law schools that work hard, and creatively, to increase employment opportunities for their current students and newly-minted graduates lack the clear incentives to continue that assistance — and in a tangible way — over the several beginning years of their graduates’ careers. No wonder why young alums perceive their law school as connecting with them only with their hands out for money. They are more right than wrong.
Let’s keep it real and say, again with credit to Elie’s main message in this post that law schools must be proactive and strategic in providing their graduates with assistance over at least the first few years following graduation. Practically, this means (at least): (1) substantial loan repayment assistance (in addition to IBR); (2) assistance which tracks not only public interest/public sector employment, but employment in legal sectors which cannot realistically hold out the promise of helping graduates’ cover their post-graduate debt; (3) meaningful career assistance which continues in the first years following graduation (not “thanks for meeting with us for your 2nd and 3rd year. Good luck!); and (4) professional development initiatives (subsidized principally by the Law School) which assist graduates with developing the most applicable modern skills, skills which will enhance their employment opportunities and point them toward more successful outcomes.
Spare us the “well, law schools will never do this, as it costs them money and it won’t have a perceptible impact on their rankings.” We are doing all four of these things are Northwestern, and we will do more. There are certainly other law schools who are engaging with their young alumni in similarly, if not more, creative ways as well. The costs of substantial action are high, and some law schools will be better resourced (of course) than others to undertake these initiatives. But, folks, let’s move it much higher up our priority list. The time has come to do something meaningful with this lost generation. It’s good for the law schools; and it’s the right thing to do.
So, hats off to Elie (at least until a future irritating post by him!) for making an essential and powerful point about the connection between the applicant decline, young alumni anger, and the flaws in the current structure of legal education.
cross-posted from Prawfsblawg.
The best preparation for the demanding work of a first-year law school is surely rest and recuperation. Enjoy time with friends and families and take the time you need to wind down from work responsibilities as you make the transition to the exciting, focused journey of the beginning law student.
Still and all, pre-law students — OLs, as the new term describes them — ask about valuable readings to help better prepare them for their law school work. Everyone has their favorites, so let me suggest some of mine.
“A Man for All Seasons”
Robert Bolt’s magnificent play about Thomas More and the ethical dimensions of lawyering, faith, and client service in the shadow of the struggles of merry old England under the regime of Henry VIII.
“The Bramble Bush”
A short, remarkable book by one of the great legal scholars of the 20th century, Karl Llewellyn. Rewarding and insightful, even several decades after its publication.
“Law School Without Fear: Strategies for Success”
A helpful book, written by two of our beloved Northwestern professors, Helene and Marshall Shapo.
“A Civil Action”
Page-turner on modern impact litigation by Jonathan Harr.
On law, lawyers, and the system:
“Six Amendments: How and Why we Should Change the Constitution”
From our esteemed alumnus, Justice John Paul Stevens, a thought-provoking short book on of the key legal controversies of our times
Intriguing book (also refreshingly short) by futurist Richard Susskind. Frames well the challenges to young (and not-so-young) lawyers in the coming decades. Not for the timid, but a very interesting perspective.
Our brave new world (books which explore the key dimensions of our complex technological age, and how future professionals ought to cope and even thrive in this distinctly different era we are in):
Wonderfully insightful book from NU Law prof. John McGinnis. Big data meets democracy.
“The Second Machine Age”
Food for careful thought by two innovative MIT professors, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Comprehensive biography of this remarkable figure by Walter Isaacson. Baffling genius; extraordinary story of Apple and its intersection with modern economic trends
On a lighter note:
Anything by David Sedaris. Hilarious.
“You Were Never in Chicago” by Neil Steinberg. Especially for the newcomers to our City of Big Shoulders!
And don’t forget to catch up on your binge-TV watching. We like House of Cards; Homeland; Veep; Downton Abbey, Newsroom, and Boardwalk Empire.
The disconnect between what the business world knows, tells us, and shows us with respect to the collapse of disciplinary silos and what we ruminate about in the comparatively-less-innovative space of universities is a profound fact on the ground. At least twenty years behind says Lipshaw? I won’t quarrel with that description, although I might tepidly suggest that some universities are pushing ahead more innovatively. Stanford’s D-School may be just the most conspicuous example because, well, it is Stanford. But there are bits and pieces of innovation in universities which aspire to take a bolder path. Still and all, the incentive structure that impedes multidisciplinarity (perhaps a better mouthful term to capture the point than “interdisciplinarity”) in the university setting is important and vexing.
Let me offer a key amendment to Jeff’s general depiction of the problem: What we do in the curricular settings of professional schools is, much more often than not, drawing from bodies of research to undergird our teaching. So, it might be essential for a scholar aimed at moving the field forward to ground her contribution in a disciplinary tradition which is hard to marry to multidisciplinary reality and performance. Yet, what is to stop the innovative teacher, looking to arm his students with the professional equipment and skills to prosper in the new economy, from looking at the world in a fundamentally multidisciplinary (and, indeed, disruptive) way? Maybe the short term answer to the difficulties Jeff wisely illustrates is to focus, first, on the teaching and training function of legal instruction. Perhaps innovation will emerge in pedagogy and programs before it reshapes more fundamentally the literature of the practice.
“[Engineers] who are knowledgeable about intellectual property, regulatory strategy, and legal issues can facilitate better decision-making throughout the innovation and design processes.”—Mark Werwath and Howard Wolfson
Our new Master of Science in Law program is getting some interesting attention—my cross-campus colleague, Professor Mark Werwath, director of the Engineering Management Program at the McCormick School of Engineering, recently co-authored a short article with engineer and adjunct professor Howard Wolfman from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “The Modern Engineer: New Skills, Opportunities, and Obligations” discusses the increasing need for engineers to understand business law, IP, and regulatory structures so that they can better assess when rules and regulations are a constraint and when they are an opportunity. The article was published in The Institute, an online publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Traditional disciplines are evolving out of their silos; the modern economy demands it.
Earlier this month I got into a lively exchange of viewpoints with David Lat and Brian Dalton from Above the Law regarding their decision not to include JD Advantage jobs in the “ATL Law School Rankings.” My point, put simply, is this: many students choose “non-traditional” career paths (read: non-Biglaw) out of law school, deciding instead to pursue opportunities in business, consulting, banking, and—in a not-small number of cases here at Northwestern Law—to start their own companies. These jobs are highly consequential and, insofar as they drive innovation, are very important to the economy. And there is no doubt that a legal education helps them excel in these positions.
I won’t paraphrase their counter argument for why these jobs should be excluded from the ranking. Instead, I invite you to read the article ATL published yesterday about the exchange, “ATL vs. Law Dean vs. Common Sense.” The legal profession is evolving. How we evaluate value needs to evolve, too.
“Expectations of hiring faculty have grown, especially with regard to more published writing. In turn, law schools are demanding more advanced academic training — what Harvard’s James Greiner says is ‘essentially requiring them to do a Ph.D.’” Cross posted from Prawfsblawg.
How STEM-trained young people are leveraging their skills to pursue significant positions in corporate or entrepreneurial settings. Cross-posted from Prawfsblawg.
Thoughtful views by Dean Stephen Ferruolo of University of San Diego.